Small Girl, Big Stomach

A story about a brain tumour called Steve


Hello all!

Been a while since I’ve used this site, but I thought it was the best way to talk about what’s been going on.

On Friday I had brain surgery to remove a benign tumour in my cerebellum, known as a haemangioblastoma. He was called Steve. For those non-medically minded souls, Steve was basically a highly vascularised little ball, sitting in the part of my brain that controls movement, motor control, coordination etc.

Now, Steve was found totally by chance. I was completely asymptomatic, but had a brain MRI in December as a participant in a research study, and there was Steve! He has probably been hanging out in my brain for some years, and whilst not causing me any problems now, would most likely have gone on to cause “cerebellar symptoms” – tremors, ataxia, unsteady gait, coordination problems, slurred speech, and the such. So whilst I wasn’t currently having any problems, the advice was to get this dealt with sooner rather than later, as the quicker I had surgery the easier Steve would be to remove, and the better I would recover.

The surgery that was supposed to last 3-4 hours ended up lasting over 12 hours, well into Saturday morning, as Steve turned out to have not one or two blood vessels feeding him, but actually having a huge blood supply, each part of which had to be individually dealt with as the tumour was removed. Whilst this was slow and complex, the operation was pretty successful, and I managed to get discharged home yesterday feeling pretty good for someone who just had brain surgery! I am so hugely grateful to everyone who looked after me, from the surgeons and anaesthetists who stood there staring at my brain for most of the day, to the amazing nurses in ITU and Neuroscience at the JR Hospital who were just phenomenal, every single one.

I of course had my incredible family and friends there, not least Alex who called in some favours to get me a bed when I needed it on Friday. Everyone has been so wonderful and supportive, it’s totally overwhelming, especially given how (reasonably) well I feel! Admittedly I get quite dizzy when I stand up, and have a good going headache, but given how recently I had this surgery, and how much worse it all could have been, I really do feel incredibly lucky.

I still plan to give my Coxing The Tideway Heads Clinic this Friday in Putney, although if I really don’t feel up to it the wonderful Henry Fieldman is on standby to take over from me. Then in a couple of weeks I will hopefully be on your screens doing some punditry for the Boat Races, and you might also spot me in a little film about the aftermath of the 2012 Boat Race on the BBC One Show, and in a little Sport Relief activity that week too!

So it’s onwards and upwards for me! Exams will hopefully still be happening in June, so I’m keen to get back to the books soon and get up and out asap.

Thank you everyone for all your kindness so far, the love and support has been truly incredible.

Hoping to see many of you for the talk on Friday!